Wings of Desire (1987) – Wim Wenders

Remade for those North American audiences who hate to to read as the less than stellar City of Angels, the beautiful Wings of Desire captured hearts and imaginations when it premiered at Cannes, winning Wenders a Best Director award.

It is also the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book.

Bruno Ganz is Damiel, an angel that watches over the denizens of the planet. He is lonely as he wanders the streets of Berlin, aiding and giving comfort to those in need. Damiel realises how lonely he truly is when he encounters, and falls in love (for the first time) with the troubled Marion (Solveig Dommartin).

He is willing to sacrifice everything if he could only be seen, felt or heard by her.

Damiel’s longs for more, to know the simple pleasures of life that we take for granted as he wanders the libraries, the streets, the homes and workplaces of humanity and provides solace, and guidance unseen to those who need it.

The film conveys that with beauty as we hear the thoughts of the world that Damiel wanders through and looks down upon. It comes to a halt when he discovers Marion, wearing wings of her own, and realizes he wants more. Wants something, someone, for himself. A world of black and white is brought to colourful life when he sees her.


But there is more going on in this film, there is German’s own guilt and loneliness over the Second World War, it haunts the memories of the elderly, and the younger ones are using it for entertainment, making a film starring Peter Falk.

When Damiel becomes mortal he sees the world anew, in the colours only glimpsed when he saw Marion. It’s beautiful and filled with joy, pain, and life. And will he be the man she thinks he is when he finally can see and touch her in her world?

He learns from an unlikely source he’s not the first of his kind to come to earth, which is a nice reveal and commentary on the wonder of life; something so many of us take for granted.

It’s a beautifully crafted film, and Ganz brings Damiel to life with a loneliness and longing that plays across his face, even as he lays his hands on others to provide support. And while City of Angels may have copied the look of the angels, wandering about in their long coats, scarves tucked within the collars, the loneliness of these characters even as they recognise one another, has a stronger impact here.

The use of colour, music (Nick Cave here instead of the Goo Goo Dolls in the remake) the way the city, and thoughts of its inhabitants are brought to life all combine to make a very strong and moving film, and definitely worth a look.


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